By Chuks Okocha
The Senate yesterday asked Nigerians who are agitating for a brand new constitution in the country to perish the thought as the National Assembly lacks the powers to do so.
The Deputy President of the Senate, Ovie Omo-Agege, stated this when he hosted members of the -Alliance of Nigerian Patriots, led by Ambassador Umunna Orjiako, in Abuja.
Omo-Agege, who is the Chairman of the Senate ad-hoc Committee on Constitution Review, gave the explanation in a statement by his media aide, Yomi Odunuga, in Abuja.
He explained that the National Assembly had no powers to replace the current Constitution but that it could only amend it.
He said the advanced democracies like the United States of America where Nigeria’s presidential system of government is fashioned after, also engage in piecemeal amendments.
He also said Sections 8 and 9 of the 1999 Constitution (as amended), equally made provisions for piecemeal alteration of the Constitution.
He, therefore, urged those calling for a new Constitution to channel their energy towards participating actively in the ongoing amendment of the Constitution by the 9th Assembly.
He said, “One of the issues you raised is the replacement of the 1999 Constitution.
“I am not so sure that we as a Parliament have the power to replace the Constitution.
“We can only make amendments. And it is explicit in Sections 8 and 9 of the Constitution on how we can do that and the requisite number of votes required.
“I say that because there are some top attorneys in this country, who for some reason, keep saying that we don’t even need any of this, that we should just bring a new Constitution.
“We can’t do that. What we are mandated to do by law is to look at those provisions and bring them up-to-date with global best practices, especially to the extent that it tallies with the views of the majority of Nigerians.
“So we are not in a position to replace this Constitution but we can only amend.
“But, like I said, most of the issues you have raised here, like zones replacing states, that’s another euphemism for going back to the regions. We will look into that if that is what majority of our people want.
“You talked about devolution of powers. The preponderance of views we have received so far is that those 68 items are very wide and need to shed some weight and move them to the Concurrent Legislative List”.
He also expressed his opinion on the call by some persons for the scrapping of the upper legislative chamber.